Saturday, December 9, 2017

Best Fall Prevention Technology for 2018

Best Fall Prevention Technology for 2018

New cell phone apps have just been developed that not only claim to predict the likelihood of a fall, but can also help prevent the chances of future falls.

More than 47 million Americans are age 65 or older, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Center for Disease Control data finds a third of that group will suffer a fall each year. Falls in this population can lead to serious injury, a loss of independence and even death.

Hospitals have searched for ways to prevent falls, particularly after 2008 when Medicare began refusing to pay for the cost of treating a fall with injury that might occur in the hospital when a patient, for example, tries to stand up and falls off a bed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deem such falls preventable, and state they therefore “should not occur after admission to the hospital.” Even so, million such falls occur in hospitals each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Patient Sitters

Previous fall prevention strategies have centered on the use of a patient sitter. Patient sitters are people employed, often in a hospital setting, to sit in a room and observe a patient at high risk of a fall. A recent study that analyzed data from 75 hospitals participating in the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania Hospital Engagement Network Falls Reduction and Prevention Collaboration found a correlation between low rates of falls with harm and the use of sitter programs.

However, three components made a vital difference in the success of a specific sitter program: defining criteria for sitter qualifications, using a consistent training program for sitters and having a pool of sitters available. Hospital administrators were reluctant to hire a patient sitter for each at-risk client. Administrators found it difficult to justify the expense, especially when a training program had to be implemented to achieve results.

Virtual Sitters

A few years ago, video monitoring improved the cost effectiveness of watching each patient in a hospital setting. Monitors allowed a single trained employee to watch several rooms at a time. TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital in Houston, Texas introduced the AvaSys TeleSitter http://avasure.com/ video monitoring system in 2014. (Monitoring equipment is also available from Cisco and Nexus.

The monitors are portable, wireless units with two-way audio, and they have reduced falls 8.6 percent. Ten patients can be monitored by a single, trained employee. However, TIRR still uses patient sitters for new patients until they are “stepped down” to the telesitter. A side benefit of the system is the 54 percent reduction in injuries to staff since the introduction of remote monitoring.

2018 Fall Prevention Apps Work Anywhere

Technology for fall prevention has recently taken a giant step forward with phone apps that can be used at home or anywhere. We’ll take a look at two, Agewell’s Equilibrium and Kinesis QTUG. Developed by a physical therapist, Equilibrium uses a smartphone or wearable device to detect older adults likely to have a fall, and then determines the best treatment to reduce the risk. With minimal training, a family member or caregiver can make the assessment using either a smartphone for periodic testing, or a wearable sensor for continuous monitoring of physical function. The device can also be used by physical or occupational therapists, care workers, doctors and nurses.

Currently, the Equilibrium prototype operates on an Android platform and has been tested in assisted living, outpatient physical therapy, home health and community settings. A pilot program can be accessed on the Equilibrium website.

“Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults and can lead to social isolation, depression, lack of independence, hip fracture and sadly, even death,” according to the Equilibrium website. “Many who fear falling limit their activity and engagement in enjoyable activities leading to loss of strength. Ironically, these are the two main reasons people have falls.” But how can you tell if you are at risk?

Equilibrium: Simple Test and Immediate Results

Using the app sounds easy. All you have to do is the hold the app to your body (or to whomever you want to assess) or put it in your pocket. Then, you perform a series of movements such as walking across a room or sitting in and getting out of a chair. The movements take about a minute to complete. The Equilibrium system analyzes your results and sends them to your phone.

Equilibrium lets anyone monitor, measure and score falling risk, and it alerts you to a change in physical status. The app uses predictive analytics to tell you if you might need changes to your medical regime (Is your medication causing you to feel woozy?), diet (Did that huge sugary snack affect your balance?), exercises (Are your quadriceps muscles getting weak?), or environment (Is it time to take the rugs off the floor?).

After determining the likely best course of preventive action, Equilibrium can document objective outcome measures that comply with Medicare. Equilibrium can integrate with electronic health records to provide objective measurement and outcome reporting.

QTUG Falls and Frailty Score

Kinesis QTUG (Quantitative Timed Up and Go) is another cell phone app, but it works using a pair of sensors tucked into elastic and wrapped around the subject’s calves. In less than five minutes, QTUG claims to measure not only the risk of falling, but also frailty. According to Kinesis, the scores are validated with nine years of extensive research.

Best Balance Exercises for Seniors


Get the New Year off to a good start with these quick and easy exercises you can do at home! All you need is a kitchen chair and five minutes to be on your way to better strength and balance.

The older adult stands, walks and turns, and the QTUG program compares the person’s gait and mobility to average values for the same age and gender. Results are color-coded for easy visibility.

QTUG will analyze how an older adult responds to intervention, therapy or medication when scores are reassessed at regular intervals. It’s possible to trend risk of falls, frailty measurements and test data over time. The app uses responses to a fall history questionnaire based on the American Geriatric Society/British Geriatric Society (AGS/BGS) guidelines for fall prevention as well as information that it gathers from sensor data to create an accurate and objective fall-risk profile.

The company touts its user-friendly design and intuitive display. The program is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, compliant, with back-up to the cloud, and patient results can be exported in Excel format.

Competitors with Equilibrium and QTUG include Intel-GE Quietcare and Healthsense. Both require installing hardware at the older adult’s home and using motion sensors to assess risk and falls. Phillips Lifeline fall alert pendant sends an alarm only after a fall is detected. Jitterbug’s GreatCall services-apps offers a line of cell phones that include fall detection and also a support line for health issues.


Sources

Patient sitters found effective in reducing falls,” AHC Media LLC.

Equilibrium: Preventing Falls in the Elderly,” MedStartr, inc.

Video monitoring reduces falls as well as cutting costs for hospitals,” AHC Media LLC.

Patient sitters effective in reducing falls,” AHC Media LLC.

Six Elements Key to Patient Sitter Program,” AHC Media LLC.

Medicare Nonpayment, Hospital Falls, and Unintended Consequences,” New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Friday, December 8, 2017

Transitioning to a Senior Care Facility

Transitioning to a Senior Care Facility

Ideas for helping older adults mentally and physically make the move from home to assisted living.

There are few changes in an older adult’s life as frightening and impactful as moving from home to a senior living situation. All of the old, familiar habits are suddenly obsolete, and waking up in a strange bedroom can be an alarming experience. Neighbors and friends are no longer nearby, and routines change abruptly.

How can family and caregivers make this difficult transition easier and smoother?

Use a Referral Specialist

A referral specialist, also known as a referral professional, can take much of the burden off the shoulders of family members navigating uncharted waters. This professional can often assist in evaluating the older adult’s need for services, including their safety at home, and give the family or caregiver options for addressing those needs.

A referral specialist should be able to point you to senior caregiving services that have a good reputation and solid licensure record with minimal care violations or citations, something that might be covered up by a lovely building and vivacious salesperson. The referral professional can evaluate your budget and give you options in your community that you can afford, whether for part-time help at home or for a move into assisted living, an adult family home, or a memory care community. The specialist is trained to anticipate future needs as well, and can discuss continuance of care for the duration of your life.

Additionally, a referral professional can point you to competent service people in the community who understand the needs of older adults and their family. You may require the services of a realtor, an elder law attorney (for a power of attorney or advanced directives), or even someone to manage downsizing or moving.

The referral company, often known as a placement agency, should employ personnel who hold accredited credentials, such as the Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® designation, to ensure they act in a capable and ethical manner. Ask if they have additional certifications with a state or local organization. How long have they been in business? Check online reviews, or ask for references.

Moving Out Before You Move On

Once the decision has been made to move out of the home, a lot of work has to be done. It won’t be easy. Fifty years of accumulations may require sorting and winnowing, sometimes quickly if Mom or Dad is moving out of state to be near a family member. Decisions about what to keep, what to give away, what to sell and what to take to the dump, can be wrenching.

Is It Time for Assisted Living?


Making the decision to move out of your home is never an easy one. Your emotions may continue to tell you to stay long after other signs all point to leaving. To help you figure out what the right decision might be for you or a loved one, consider these questions:

  • Are you eating well, or do you subsist on simple foods like soda crackers and chips?

  • Are you tripping or falling and covering up the bruises when visitors come over?

  • Are you able to bathe regularly, do the laundry and dress in clean clothes every day?

  • Can you take care of the yard and house by yourself?

  • Are you able to take your medications as prescribed, in the right dose?

  • Can you operate all of the appliances safely, remembering to turn off the oven and stove?

  • Does your home have grab bars and emergency response systems if needed?

  • Is there a plan in place in case of an emergency?

  • Is your driving up to snuff? Do you have an alternate way to get around?

  • Are you paying your bills on time?

  • Are your finances in order?

  • Are friends still coming over, or have they largely left the neighborhood or passed away, making home seem more like solitary confinement than the happy place it once was?

It may be time to seek out some help for an hour a day, or a day a week. But if you or your loved one is in danger of hurting yourself or others, a move may be in order.

Keep precious objects for their new home. Consult with the older adult about which furniture will fit in their new space, and what will be comfortable. Take cherished jewelry or memorabilia that will is filled with memories. Familiar artwork, kitchen tools and clothing all ease the move. For families, this is usually not the time to decorate in your own style, replace Mom’s outdated clothing or lay claim to her jewelry.

Expect your loved one to make negative comments. These may be about the decision to move, the way you pack, the new place or you. Take a deep breath and just listen. It could be that Mom or Dad simply needs to vent, or they may be trying to maintain decision-making power over some small thing when they feel they’ve lost it in bigger ways. Use this as an opportunity to make the situation better, if possible. Allow yourself some bad days.

Usually, transitions are smoother when you know what to expect and how to make your loved one feel more at home. We’ve compiled a list of tips and suggestions for making the move go smoothly.

Before Your Loved One Moves In

As a caregiver or family member, you can make a great deal of difference in how comfortable and personal your loved one’s new home is. Most facilities allow several visits before your loved one actually moves. Enjoy some meals together, and get to know some of the staff by name. Find the dining room, library, or game room. Show your parent the outdoor walking path, beauty salon, movie theater and anywhere else they may need to go. Many senior communities maintain an active online presence where you’ll find photos of residents enjoying daily activities.

Bring things your parent has made or collected to put in their room. Keep the feel of their old home using photographs, color scheme, furniture and paintings. Family photos and crafts are particularly welcome. Stimulate the senses with scented candles, soft fabrics and the use of color.

Seasonal reminders such as colorful leaves or a timely bouquet can make the room cheerful. Decorate for the holidays, preferably with the person’s own ornaments. Magazines, books or audio books, music and newspapers can be welcome additions.

The First Day in a Senior Care Facility

Expect your loved one to be tired and even short-tempered on moving day. Transition days are physically and emotionally taxing for everyone. Ask your loved one where they’d like furniture and artwork. Look for ways to say “yes” to requests such as putting artwork in odd places. This is their home, not yours.

Take time to sit and talk about a move they remember, an outing you two have planned or what’s on the menu for dinner. Walk your loved one from their room to the dining area, noting how to find the way back. Discuss the routine, including when meals are served. Write it down if necessary.

The First Week

It’s a good time to rally friends and family, especially if Mom or Dad has moved from out-of-state to be near you. Put some subtle pressure on siblings to get on a calling or visiting schedule, and let everyone know Grandma would welcome cards, letters, texts, emails, phone calls … whatever your loved one has access to. Encourage faraway friends to initiate contact as well.

Your loved one may express a desire to go home. Your reply could be, “I know, Mom. I wish you could, too. What’s hard for you today?” Listen, then listen some more. Listening is a powerful solution of its own. Offer comfort and hugs. Later, you could say something such as, “I think we make a great team. Let’s go get some coffee together.”

You might wonder if you’re visiting too much. Call and visit as often as you want to. Especially while your loved one hasn’t yet made friends or developed a routine, it can be soothing to you both. Set up a comforting routine, or call your loved one ahead of time to let her know you’re coming. Avoid meal times, nap time, and therapy or other treatment time. Check with staff if your loved one isn’t sure about the schedule, and let other visitors know what works too.

Knock on the door before entering your loved one’s room. Think about what activities your parent enjoys. Are there favorite movies, games or music? Would your loved one enjoy telling you family stories while you take a video or write them down? Elicit stories by asking about past events or milestones.

Take advantage of opportunities to keep your loved one involved with your family. Sharing photos, FaceTime, Skype or home videos can spark memories and make new ones. Record events such as graduation ceremonies, sports games and school plays and concerts, then share the footage.

Your loved one may enjoy a manicure or pedicure, or help writing a letter. Bring a board game, deck of cards, puzzle or bakery treat. Take a leisurely stroll. Don’t be afraid to bring children. Youngsters rarely react negatively, and teens can be an asset if they understand the assisted living environment. But do remove tired children or unwilling teens.

If you have young children, bring simple games like tic-tac-toe or dominoes, or some coloring materials. Ask your parent about games they played in their childhood. Bring a small gift for the child to open or present. Start new family traditions with a shared treat or holiday celebration. Have children create a living history by asking about firsthand experiences.

The First Month

In some ways, this time will go by in a blur, and in other ways, it may drag. You may second-guess your decision many times, and other days you’ll feel confident you did the right thing.

Evaluate the number, length and quality of your visits. Does your loved one have a steady flow of visitors that still allows time for them to become involved in the community? Are you happy about how your role has changed?

Outings can give you and your loved one a chance to connect. Get an ice cream cone, go out to a show, take a walk in a park or find an event at your local library. Your parent may enjoy going to happy hour, visiting a microbrewery, attending a religious service or taking a short shopping trip. Bring your loved one home and cook dinner, or show them the garden.

If negative comments continue, remember to pay attention to your loved one’s opinions. Treat them as an equal in the conversation. They may be using negative comments to voice uncertainty or fear. If you are concerned there is a problem with the staff or facility, make an appointment to speak with an approachable staff member or the administration. Follow the facility’s complaint procedure. Dissatisfaction may be expressed as depression, anxiety, hostility, withdrawal or unresponsiveness. If you’re not satisfied with the response, each state has an ombudsman program to help family members resolve complaints.

Many assisted living facilities report that it can take between one and three months for a new resident to become comfortable. Don’t expect immediate results, especially if your loved one is getting over the death of a spouse or adjusting to a health issue. However, time and love are the key ingredients for helping anyone adjust to life in a senior care facility.


Sources

Signs That Tell You It's Time for Assisted Living,” AgingCare.com.

Helping Elderly Parents Transition to Assisted Living,” AgingCare.com.

Transition to Care,” American Health Care Association.

Making The Transition to Senior Living: One Family’s Story,” A Place for Mom, Inc.

5 Ways to Help Your Loved One Transition to Senior Living,” Christian Care Communities.

“11/10/2017 Interview with Steve Steve Garrett, CSA on Transitioning to a Senior Care Facility,” CarePatrol Pacific Northwest.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Paul Tasner wants to encourage and connect older entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. and around the globe, as he explains in this TED talk. He started his own business at age 68 after a lifetime working for others, but he had a hard time finding role models who were like himself. It shouldn’t be so, he asserts with humor. Businesses started by older adults like himself succeed at twice the rate of those led by Silicon Valley hipsters.



Sources

Paul Tasner - How I became an entrepreneur at 66,” TED Talks.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Easy Ways to Start Exercising

Easy Ways to Start Exercising

We’ve found the best, most this-doesn’t-feel-like-exercise ways to get your muscles moving for a happier you in the New Year.

Does reading about “active seniors” drive you to the freezer for your last pint of Ben and Jerry’s? Do you roll your eyeballs when you drive by buildings with the word “recreation” or “fitness” in the name? Then this article is for you!

Everyone Has to Start Somewhere

Many older adults bemoan the annual January tradition to start an exercise program as a New Year resolution. There are plenty of excuses: It’s too cold. My knees hurt. I tried it once and I hated the class/instructor/music. I’ve always been fat. I’ll look like an idiot. It’s easier to stay the way I am. By age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity.

SilverSneakers


You’ve probably heard of SilverSneakers but you may not know it’s a comprehensive program to encourage older adults to participate in physical activity and stay social. The free program is available across the country to adults 65 and older.

Original Medicare Part A and Part B won’t cover SilverSneakers, but your Medicare Advantage plan might. To find out if your plan covers the program, contact your health plan provider or check online. SilverSneakers online health plan finder If you want to switch to a plan that includes SilverSneakers, use the eHealthMedicare comparison tool to find one in your area.

Membership grants access to any participating gym or recreation center. You get unlimited access to more than 13,000 locations. Weights, treadmills, and pools are included, as well as fitness classes for all abilities led by certified instructors. The new FLEX addition offers yoga, dance, and other classes outside of the usual network.

Every location that offers SilverSneakers has an advisor to help you get started. You can track your progress with HealthwaysFIT.com, and you’ll be invited to health education seminars and fitness events.

But ask yourself: If you could buy a new body, toned and strong, how much would it be worth? Would you pay $50 a month for it? How about if it were free? What would it feel like to wake up every day full of energy? What If exercise was fun?

We’ve searched to find the best, most innovative ways to get you moving. No two people will tread exactly the same path to better health. The only thing fit people have in common is that they don’t quit working out, whether they are salsa dancing or swimming. So find something on the list that looks interesting and give it a try.

Exercise Has Side Benefits

Are you hoping to age in place? There’s nothing like good health to help you stay at home. Regular exercise reduces your risk of falling and breaking bones. Do you struggle with depression? Exercise improves mental well-being, and relieve your stress.

Older adults can benefit from aerobic endurance activity, as well as muscle-strengthening activities that can stabilize joints and your body’s core. Amazingly, exercise reduces your risk of dying from coronary heart disease or getting high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes. If that’s not enough, exercise helps control the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.

In addition, exercising as part of a group can give you a sense of belonging and purpose. Working out on your own leaves you with time to think, listen to a podcast, or enjoy your favorite music.

It Doesn’t Take a Lot

It’s surprising how a small amount of daily exercise can make a big difference in your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that more intense activity, such as climbing stairs, can be shorter than less intense activity, such as walking on a flat surface, for a similar benefit. However, more benefit can be gained by exercising longer, more intensely, or more often.

Consult with your doctor before increasing your activity level. If you’ve been sedentary, start with short intervals of activity five to ten minutes long, and work up to longer sessions gradually. Now, find something on the list and get started!

  • Spy on your neighbors. Take a stroll around the neighborhood and check on who hasn’t taken their holiday decorations down (tut-tut), whose car is pulling into the Smith’s driveway, and pet Mr. Brown’s new dog out for a walk. This is especially fun when dusk has fallen and you can be a secret voyeur, using lit interiors to critique interior decorating. It’s worth a drive to the toney part of town to see how the other half (one percent!) live.

  • Embrace the great outdoors. Make it a goal to walk every inch of every trail in your suburb, town, or county. You could change it to irrigation ditches in farm country, or it may be easier to hit the sidewalks on city streets. How about walking through historic cemeteries, or logging miles at a local high school track?

  • Make tracks in the snow. The white stuff is a built-in shock absorber when you snowshoe or ski cross country. Rent equipment and try it out before you decide to buy. Make your own trails or find a Nordic center for groomed paths. You can learn the basics in minutes; no expertise required.

  • Square dance. Promenade and allemande left. You can wear a short, bouncy skirt or bolero tie just like the real cowboys and cowgirls with no pushback! Get the basics down with a video lesson, then sashay on over to your local club to get started.

  • Go window shopping. Hit the local mall and check out window displays as you walk your way to better health. Bring your cell phone for a podcast or music that will make the time fly by. Many malls cater to senior walkers by opening the doors to them before shops are open, so there’s no fighting crowds.

  • Find your splash zone. Many recreation centers have modern lap lanes that are not meat-locker cold, and waist-deep lazy river lanes for walking against the artificial current. That’s right: you can exercise in a pool even if you don’t know how to swim. Snap on a flotation device (you may be able to borrow one from the facility) and hold on to the edge all you want.

  • Become a biker chick or guy. No, a motorcycle is not going to raise your heartrate unless maybe you’re oogling the latest model from Harley. Quit the drooling and get your hands on a real bike! Take your pick from sleek road bikes, rugged mountain bikes, city-slicker cruisers, or low-slung recumbents. You can find a bike made just for the beach or one that will take you home on a country road, all in return for a little leg power.

  • Plant your own plot of paradise. Does the thought of a ripe heirloom tomato make you smile? Do your daydreams wander to an iris the color of a summer sunset? Make a raised bed garden to get your heart rate up, then tend it. Weeding, watering, and mulching are all exercise in disguise.

  • Volunteer at an athletic event. Local races need people to hand out packets, dispense water and cheer on competitors. Being around athletic people encourages you to picture yourself as part of an active group. You’ll see that these athletes are old and young, fast and slow, first-timers and veterans of the sport.

  • Give Yourself a Reward. Walk a thousand steps every day for a month, and rent a VRBO in the mountains for a hike. Bike twenty-five miles a week for three months, and join a local cycling group for special weekend rides. Snowshoe a mile a day for three weeks, and treat yourself to a cup of extraordinary hot chocolate goodness at the local coffee shop.

  • Tai Chi your way to health. It’s okay if you don’t know what it is. Tai Chi, Taekwondo, yoga… all are Eastern practices are great for improving your balance. Brain research during yoga shows reduced stress and enhanced cognition. Chair yoga modifications make it accessible to just about anyone.

  • Make your favorite room the ballroom. Dancing, that is. Tango, foxtrot, and waltz your way to better balance, rhythm, and new friends. You don’t need a partner to start classes. Get a little intro lesson before your first class and impress the teacher.

  • Lurk in the alley. The bowling alley, that is. Most bowling alleys are not the smoky habitats of yore, but family-friendly lanes where you can practice your strikes. Lift one of those bowling balls a few times and you’ll know it’s a workout! Join a league and get social benefits, too.

  • Play with a bucket. Golf has decreased in popularity, but it’s still a lot of fun to hit a bucket of balls, even if you’re not a good shot. Some ranges have heated stalls to make it a year ‘round activity. If the thought is just too intimidating, head to your local minigolf course for some fun.

  • Get in touch with your inner child. And what better way than to play with the grandkids? Wear clothes that can get dirty, then build a fort, go on a treasure hunt, or save Moby Dick (times have changed!). Jump rope for aerobic fun that is roaring back as a popular competitive event.

  • Play Wii Fit. Novices can review this Wii Fit primer before starting their first game with this Nintendo gaming console that promotes movement. You can try virtual tennis, bowling, yoga, skiing or more, and the device will track your weight and general fitness level.

  • Donate time at a shelter, rescue, or equine therapy barn. Whether you’re walking dogs, scooping poop, or leading a horse with a disabled rider, you’ll be getting more than you’re giving when you offer the gift of your time. Each of these options will get you moving and socializing. There’s no research study to prove it, but rumor says your heart muscle will grow bigger, too.

Did you notice that not one of the options listed above requires you to go to the dreaded gym? Woohoo! And we didn’t even get into summer activities like croquet, snorkeling, or beachcombing. Or Midwestern favorites like corn hole! Once you get into active mode, you’ll realize how many activities are doable.

Your exercise plan is easy. Start now, and do something every day for the rest of your life. Happy moving!


Sources

5 Fun Ways For Seniors To Stay Active,” Alert1.

11 Fun Ways Older Adults Can Get in Shape,” Everyday Health.

Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Yoga Does to Your Brain,” NBC News.

What is SilverSneakers™? Does Medicare cover this program?,” eHealthInsurance Services, Inc.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Avoid These 20 Top Tax Mistakes

Top 20 Tax Mistakes

We’ve compiled a list of common tax mistakes to ensure you don’t pay more than you need to on your 2017 returns.

There are more than 1,000 different forms to choose from when filing your 2017 tax return. No wonder it’s easy to make a mistake! But some of the most common errors are deceptively simple. Make sure to sidestep the following pitfalls:

  1. Incorrect names and Social Security numbers. Take a minute to make sure you spell names exactly as they appear on Social Security cards, and don’t transpose numbers. If you recently changed your name but you haven’t had a chance to file an update with the Social Security Administration, you’ll need to use your old name on your return.

  2. Wrong birth dates. It’s tempting to guess at a child’s or spouse’s birthdate, or even to write in one without double checking. But much of the tax code is based on age, and you cast doubt on a claim if the name and birthdate don’t match up.

  3. Tax Relief for Special Cases


    Penalty Abatement for Quarterly Payers

    If you just entered the so-called gig economy and messed up your payments or filing, you may have an out. According to the IRS:

    You may qualify for administrative relief from penalties for failing to file a tax return, pay on time, and/or to deposit taxes when due under the Service's First Time Penalty Abatement policy if the following are true:

    • You didn’t previously have to file a return or you have no penalties for the 3 tax years prior to the tax year in which you received a penalty.
    • You filed all currently required returns or filed an extension of time to file.
    • You have paid, or arranged to pay, any tax due.

    Check your eligibility for a first time penalty abatement here.


    Hurricane Tax Relief

    Those living in areas affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria (check here to see if you qualify) get special tax treatment. Taxpayers who had filed for an extension on their 2016 taxes have until Jan. 31, 2018 to turn in their forms. Call the phone number on your late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS to correct an error. Taxpayers should be identified automatically based on address, but affected individuals and businesses outside the area can call the IRS disaster hotline at (866) 562-5227 to request tax relief.

    Hurricane victims may also be able to claim a personal casualty loss write-off. However, the law is complicated and you won’t be able to claim the full amount. (Businesses are treated differently and can claim the full write-off.) To find out what you may be eligible to deduct, check IRS Publication 547 (Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts).

  4. Wrong filing status. What if you got married or divorced in 2017? Your status is what is accurate as of December 31, so if you married on New Year’s Eve, you’re married for your tax return. Additionally, you could qualify as head of household if you were single at the end of the year, pony up at least half the cost of running your home and have a child or parent who is a dependent.

  5. Not carrying the one. The IRS found more than 2 million math errors in 2014 returns. Some of these were in taxpayers’ favor. To reduce the chance of mistakes in arithmetic, use tax software or hire a qualified preparer.

  6. Transposing numbers. Your software doesn’t know if you earned $1,600 in interest or $6,100, and it will keep using the wrong information throughout your return if you don’t catch the error.

  7. Funding someone else’s bank account. Direct deposit is the fastest, best way to get your refund. But it can be very difficult to retrieve if you accidentally provide the wrong routing or account number. Check them twice before sending off your return.

  8. Missing forms. Besides a W-2, you may need to include brokerage forms (1099s) for investments, and for 2017, you still need to provide proof of health insurance (1095).

  9. Forgetting online donations to charity. It’s easy to omit charitable deductions if the receipt was emailed. Search your inbox for “gift,” “donation” or “charity” before you file.

  10. Forgetting to sign. The IRS won’t accept a return that is not signed, and they’ll treat it like you haven’t filed. Penalties and fines could follow, and you’ll leave yourself open to an audit.

  11. Not claiming all your income. If you hopped into the gig economy and earned at least $600 as a contractor, or if you earned interest or dividends of at least that much, you’ll get a 1099 and so will the IRS. If you fail to report this income, expect to hear from the IRS.

  12. Forgetting to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Holders of a traditional IRA or 401(k) must make minimum withdrawals after age 70 and a half. The penalty for not doing so is a hefty 50 percent tax. If you messed up, file a Form 5329 with an explanation and what you’ve done to correct your error. The agency may waive the tax, especially if it’s your first time taking the distributions.

  13. Missing the deadline. If April 18, 2018 blows by and you realize your return is late, file as soon as you can or face up to a 5 percent penalty on the amount due every month, up to 25 percent, until the IRS gets your return. You’ll also owe interest on your outstanding tax burden, usually 0.5 percent per month.

  14. Misunderstanding the extension. The IRS will grant you six months to file your return if you request an extension (Form 4868) by April 18, 2018. Some people assume this gives them another six months to pay taxes owed. Not! Make a payment by the April deadline or face a late-payment penalty.

  15. Sending your return to the wrong address. Many taxpayers still use a paper return, and mailing it to the right processing center is tricky. Returns with payments go to one place, while those without payments go to another. Check for the proper address here.

  16. Watch Out for Tax Scams

    Most tax professionals will help you file accurate returns. Tax preparation services can be essential for older adults with a complex financial situation. But a few are dishonest or inept. Check out the IRS webpage to find tips on how to select a tax preparer and examine their credentials.

    Don’t fall prey to someone who calls or emails and claims to be from the IRS, saying you owe hundreds or thousands of dollars in back taxes. They may pressure you by saying agents are on their way to take you into custody. Whatever their method, they will demand payment via wire transfer or credit card. Hang up the phone or delete the email. The IRS never calls or emails to initiate contact; they always send a letter through the U.S. mail. Report any tax collection scam to the U.S. Department of the Treasury here.

  17. Making a statement with your check. The IRS probably won’t cash that check made out to “International Rat Society” or “Infernal Robbers and Scoundrels.” You may feel better, but your payment will be considered late and you’ll get hit with a penalty. Pay online with IRS Direct Pay and hit the buttons as hard as you want while cussing profusely for free.

  18. Saving money on postage. It’s not a good idea to see if your thick return will be delivered with just one stamp. The U.S. Postal Service sends back mail without adequate postage, possibly making your return late and certainly costing you another couple of stamps. Avoid the whole expense by e-filing, or drive down to your local post office for the correct postage.

  19. Messing up and giving up. If you need to fix your return, you are not alone. Get it done fast with a form 1040X and any corrected schedules or forms, all of which must be mailed. If you now owe more taxes, the IRS will assess interest and penalties from the original due date.

  20. Not filing. You may decide you can’t pay what you owe, so you’ll put off the pain by not filing a tax return. Bad idea. The penalty for failing to file is more than the penalty for not paying. File your return with as much as you can pay, and work out a payment option with the IRS for the rest.

  21. Waiting until the last minute. Some tax preparation services cost more if you request service near the filing deadline. Rushing to get your taxes done can cause you to miss deductions or make mistakes. Why not take advantage of IRS online filing? It’s free if you meet generous income guidelines.

  22. Claiming a deduction you can’t prove. Nasty fines and penalties await if you’re audited and you can’t substantiate the deductions you took. Save copies of your return, plus receipts and any other documentation used to prepare your taxes.

Sources

Common Mistakes When Filing Your Taxes,” DailyFinanceReport.org.

10 Common Tax-Filing Mistakes to Avoid,” AARP.

IRS penalizes more earners for mistakes, underpayment in estimated tax filings,” USA Today.

The Costliest Tax Scams and Mistakes of 2017,” Legal shield.

Avoid These Common Tax Mistakes,” Chugh.com.

11 Big Tax Mistakes to Avoid,” Nerd Wallet.

Penalty Relief Due to First Time Penalty Abatement or Other Administrative Waiver,” IRS.gov.

IRS extends tax relief to Hurricane Maria victims,” Accounting Today.

See if you can write off your Hurricane Harvey and Irma losses on your taxes,” Market Watch.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us